My first lazy analogy based on the trailer had me anticipating a Walking Dead/Sons of Anarchy cross over for Days Gone. While some elements of this do ring through. After playing it a more accurate description would be The Last of Us meets Dying Light.
Days Gone is an open world game set in the Pacific North West two years after a mysterious pandemic has either killed off most of the population or turned them into crazed feral creatures. These are not lumbering Zombies, they are infected humans (Freakers). These “Freakers” are fast, aggressive and hunt in packs.
Much like in Dying Light there is a day-night cycle that changes the dynamic of the game. During the day most of the Freakers like to have a little snooze. The ones that remain in the open, while still dangerous, can generally be managed when in lower numbers. If you come up against more than 4-5+ you are better off running away, especially in the early stages of the game.
During the night, the numbers increase dramatically. They are far more aggressive too. Expect to get surprised, chased, knocked off your bike and swarmed with much more regularity. You need to work extra hard to stay out of sight and earshot.
The variety of different infected creatures keeps things interesting. There are Swarmers (infected adults) which make up the bulk. Generally, they are a low-level treat unless in groups. The first time you come across a horde it is genuinely terrifying. Screamers who make tones of noise and draw in crowds. Breakers who are big muscle-bound Freakers. Most disturbingly of all are the Newts. The Newts are kids. They tend not to attack but it still feels really uncomfortable killing them.
The world of Days Gone is a dangerous place and this is long before we introduce the many other human and wildlife elements trying to kill you. You will encounter Crows, Wolves, Bears, and Cougars (not that type) all trying to kill you. Even before the virus crosses species and they become infected which ramps things up, even more, they are pretty deadly predators.
Combat: As you level up your skills and get better weapons you can take on greater numbers of infected. There is a nice variety of weapons and skills to unlock. Early combat can be a bit difficult to get to grips with but once you add a few new skills and get an assault rifle it gets better. You can learn new crafting recipes and discover blueprints to make deadly new weapons.
This section will contain mild story spoilers: You play as Deacon Saint John, a Drifter. Drifters are what you expect, they roam from area to area picking up odd jobs. While they don’t necessarily belong to any one of the groups, they do have a working relationship (and a lot of history) with most of them.
At the start of the game, your bike gets stolen and stripped for parts. Your main goal is to travel around doing jobs and building trust with the different groups. Trust and money lets you buy back the parts you need. The more work you do for each group, the more trust you build with them. The more trust, the better the parts and weapons they will sell you. It’s a great system that makes sense in the world. A group of survivors is not just going to arm any old idiot turning up on their doorstep and each group has different things to sell.This is the end of the spoilers section:
World Building: Each of the human groups has its own dynamic, its own survival philosophy, and its own storylines. For the most part, this is well-done. There are no clear-cut good guys and bad guys, it’s surviving and that can be open to some moral ambiguity. As you complete your errands you add new elements to the storyline of each group. Although some side missions can suffer from a bit of repetitiveness (You can only go and rescue someone who failed to come back from X job so many times without it losing its appeal) they are still worth doing to help with the world building.
Open World: The world itself is massive, for the most part, it is a rural setting with small pockets of buildings. Getting around it on the bike is amazing and actually really relaxing. I found myself foregoing the fast traveling system to just cruise through the stunning world. You do have to constantly manage your fuel but it is managed well. It adds an element of risk to your travel without adding annoying busy work.
Dynamic Weather: Each new weather system changes the landscape and gameplay. Rain will make the tracks sloppy with mud, snow will cover everything is a crisp blanket of white. While it doesn’t dramatically change the game, it is a really nice touch to add some variety to the locations. Small touches like taking shelter from the snow under a tree and the tree actually blocking the snow makes this system all the more immersive.
Storytelling: There are several storylines running throughout, much like the Last of Us a significant number of these are delivered through your conversations with other characters and play out in-game rather than in cut scenes. If you must drive from point A to B with someone there is always a considerable amount of important dialogue building out the characters. I felt the more you invested in the characters, the more you got to know them. You can get a sense of who they, and what horrific tragedy or action has brought them to be the person they are today.
Overall: Days Gone is amazing. It ticks so many boxes for me. While it does borrow largely from other games, movies, and TV shows, it takes these best bits and uses them well. The world it builds, and the stories it tells, are compelling. For the first time in a long time in an open world game, I found myself coming back repeatedly and doing extra side missions and exploring to expand further into its multiple storylines.
PS. The first hour is a bit janky but stick with it. It gets much much better.Please Join us on your Social Platform of choice